Infrastructure week comes to South Louisiana

Infrastructure week comes to South Louisiana

President Joe Biden visits Lake Charles and New Orleans today to promote his $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal, which includes major investments in the nation’s roads, bridges, electrical grid and drinking water systems. To pay for his plan, Biden proposes to increase taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations. As the AP’s Josh Boak reports, the dilapidated Calcasieu River Bridge and the troubled New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board Carrollton water plant vividly illustrate the need for a significant federal infrastructure package:

(President Biden’s) infrastructure package received support in a newspaper editorial last week by Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter, a Republican, and Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins, a Democrat. “The unfortunate truth is that our aging infrastructure and local government budgets cannot withstand the strain of increasingly frequent storms,” they wrote. “As mayors of great American cities in the South, we lie awake at night dreading each forecasted storm.”

The Advocate’s Mike Smith reports that more than 3,000 Lake Charles residents are still displaced after last year’s hurricanes, which Congress has yet to address through a disaster recovery package.

Local officials certainly support building a new bridge, but they hope it doesn’t keep other pressing concerns from being addressed. “It would be just a grave miscalculation if the president came to town and did not address hurricane recovery and the fact that we are now close to 250 days post-Hurricane Laura and we still do not have a disaster relief package approved from Washington, DC for southwest Louisiana,” Hunter said. “I consider that a grave injustice.”

Keep moms healthy after labor
Louisiana has long suffered from some of the highest maternal death rates in the nation, with Black and brown mothers dying after pregnancy at rates three times that of their white counterparts. But though Louisiana Medicaid covers babies born into low-income families, many mothers in our state lose their own health coverage shortly after giving birth. House Bill 468 by state Rep. Mandie Landry aims to keep mothers covered by Medicaid for a year after they give birth, which would help to address some of Louisiana’s worst failures in caring for new mothers. The bill advanced out of the House Health and Welfare Committee on Wednesday and now heads to the House floor for a vote. LBP’s Stacey Roussel explains the many ways that Landry’s bill would benefit our state.

Louisiana can build on its commitment to maternal health by extending Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months. Our state has done well to expand Medicaid eligibility to low-income adults. We have shown our commitment to addressing difficult problems through multiple initiatives at the Louisiana Department of Health and through legislative action, including the Healthy Moms Healthy Babies Advisory Council. It is time to take the next step and extend Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months. Louisiana can take action now by passing House Bill 468 by Rep. Landry and provide mothers with the peace of mind they deserve as they care for themselves and their babies through the first year.

End the pink tax
Diapers and period products are not optional purchases for the people who need them, but Louisiana tax law has long failed to treat them the same as other necessities. State Rep. Aimee Freeman’s House Bill 7 would correct that, exempting those essential purchases from the state sales tax. As The Advocate editorial board points out, this would provide real relief for low-income people across Louisiana.

For Louisianans of limited means, the state’s over-reliance on sales tax is a particular burden. People with lower incomes spend a higher proportion of what they have to make ends meet than those who are in the position to save. That’s what makes the state’s existing sales tax exemption on necessities — a remnant of the sensible but mostly dismantled Stelly Plan tax reform of 2002 — among the most compassionate tax policies on the books. But fundamental needs don’t stop at the groceries, utilities, and prescriptions specified under Stelly. Common sense dictates that the category should also include feminine hygiene products as well as diapers for young children and adults.

Rents on the rise as eviction relief ends
Millions of Americans — particularly those who worked in the service industry or other low-wage jobs before the pandemic — are still struggling to make ends meet. Now, a federal judge has ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its authority when it imposed an eviction moratorium last year, throwing renters who have little ability to pay on the mercy of their landlords. As Bloomberg’s Alexandre Tanzi reports, this comes as rents are rising nationwide.

The rising costs will pile pressure on poorer families who are more likely to rent -– and less likely to be earning money right now, in a recovery that’s seen better-paid jobs bounce back faster. For low-income Americans, shelter accounts for 40% of spending. Adding another risk, a federal judge in Washington ruled on Wednesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had exceeded its authority by ordering a nationwide moratorium on tenant evictions last year.

Strong Families Tax Credit Video
Louisianans know how to work hard and take care of their families. But sometimes they need a little boost. The Strong Families Tax Credit can provide hard-working Louisiana families with a little extra to help make ends meet. Watch our new video explaining how a little boost can make all the difference. 

Number of the Day
367,000 – Number of people in Louisiana who live in households where more than half of their household income goes toward housing and utilities. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)